Two Little Dickie Birds is a one woman play in two Acts, with Jo Dakin playing the part of Pauline, a world weary pub landlady from Oldham who's been round the block a few times, never met Mr Right and has a best friend who lives with her called Peter.
The show takes the format of Pauline talking about her life, her past experiences (mainly sad) and how she deals with the obstacles and dramas which life throws at her.
The set is excellent and very imaginative and some of the audience seating is laid out in the format of pub tables and chairs (complete with bowls of crisps). Most of the audience sat in that area, giving it a more authentic pub feel. The set itself cleverly uses a screen onto which various images are projected so we are transported into various different settings, ranging from the Oldham Central tram stop to the statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro.
I liked the fact that the man doing the scene and prop changes (I believe he may have been one of the writers) wore different clothes each time he came on stage to fit in with the setting at that point. When the audience first entered the auditorium, he was sitting on the stage dressed as a workman. His various costume changes included a hoodie, a tracksuit and later on, Bermuda shorts and flower garlands. I found myself wondering what he would be wearing next! I thought this was a really nice and interesting touch – plus he also walked on and off stage in time to the music which I liked as it was very neat and tidy!
The first half follows Pauline through a disastrous date with a man she met online to the tragedy of her pub burning down and her friend, Peter, being killed in the fire. I have to say that I did find the script rather weak in places and the dialogue not tight enough. I appreciate that Pauline is doing all the talking so there is no two way conversation but some of it was rather tedious and drawn out. There were some elements of reality humour at times which was good – everyone likes comedy that they can identify with - but I would have liked a bit more of this and a bit less of some of the more inane elements. There was a lot of reported conversation from Pauline which just wasn't engaging enough to hold my attention for very long. The conversation that she re-enacts about Scouse Dawn did make me cringe a little bit as it went on for quite a long time and it just wasn't very funny and it didn't take the story any further or add anything to it – neither did the re-enacted conversation which took place in the brothel.
I wasn't overly keen on the scene which took place at the Metrolink tram stop – part of this featured Pauline requesting help from Metrolink as she didn't know how to buy a ticket – this was a little overdone and overacted and I was willing it to end. I also found myself getting a little irritated by Pauline's inanity and inability to get to the point.
During the scene in the Ritz, Pauline's date goes off with another woman which prompts her to launch into a diatribe about men "all they want is sex...is it all worth it". This was the first time we'd seen any rawness from Pauline and it was quite stark in comparison to all the rather vacuous content that had occupied the majority of the play so far. It worked very well. More pathos followed as we learned that Pauline had been let down by men all her life, starting with her father who committed suicide when she was a child.
The pub then catches fire and Peter is killed. This brought an end to the first half. The second half, I'm happy to say, I found much more enjoyable in that the dialogue and content was a lot tighter and I actually found myself caring about Pauline and liking her a lot more than I had done up to now.
Pauline is on her way to Brazil – the pub has gone and she's taking Peter's ashes to be scattered in his country of origin. We learn that the fire was the result of Pauline leaving a chip pan unattended on the night that she had her disastrous date. She does seem to lurch from one crisis and drama to another!
Pauline then talks about Peter, saying how love takes many forms and it is revealed (although I think most of the audience had already guessed) that Peter was a parrot. Pauline speaks very emotionally about Peter and I found what she said and how she said it to be incredibly moving and full of pathos. She reminisces about him and her emotion at this point is very convincing, particularly as the scene closes and she raises a glass to him, saying "here's to you, darling". I thought this was excellent writing.
The rest of the story focuses on Pauline's romance in Brazil with Leo, the Customs Official who interrogated her initially. They marry and Pauline opens "Pauline's Bar" in Brazil. The play concludes with her talking to the locals, as she did at the beginning. Happily for her, although the story has gone full circle, she finds her Mr Right at last – together with a rescued parrot called Pedro who gets his own moment in the spotlight.
I found this play quite difficult to get into during the first half and I do think the script needs to be tighter. The second half, however, is much better and very entertaining and I found myself really rooting for our northern Landlady by the time last orders were called.
Reviewed: 11th June 2016
Reviewer: Nicky Lambert
North West End Rating: ★★★